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Pontiff Sees Goldmann, Voices Regret over ‘misinterpretation’ of Mideast Remarks

January 7, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Pope Paul VI granted a half-hour audience to Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, today and reportedly expressed regrets that his recent statements on the Middle East were “misinterpreted” by many Jews as taking sides against Israel. With Dr. Goldmann were Dr. Joachim Prinz of Orange, N.J., chairman of the governing council, and Dr. Gerhard M. Riegner, WJ Congress secretary-general.

Dr. Goldmann, who was attending a meeting of the WJ Congress’ governing council here, reported at a press conference on his talk with the head of the Roman Catholic Church. He said the Pontiff emphasized that he opposed all acts of violence no matter who was responsible for them and pledged support for “the achievement of a peaceful solution based on justice which would enable all the peoples in the Middle East to live together in peace and harmony.”

The Pope aroused anger in many Jewish circles last week when, following Israel’s Dec. 28 reprisal raid on Beirut International Airport, he sent a letter of sympathy to President Charles Helou of Lebanon. Some Jewish leaders took this as evidence that the Pope was biased because he implicitly condemned Israel’s reprisal but said nothing about the Arab acts of terror that precipitated it.

Dr. Goldmann said the Pope had expressed “his esteem of the Jewish people” and his hopes for Catholic-Jewish cooperation. He said the Pope’s New Year speech condemning all violence in the Middle East had “clarified” the impression created by his previous statement. But “it could have been more useful if his position had been clear from the beginning.” Dr. Goldmann said. He added that there had been “satisfaction” in Israel in the past at the Vatican’s understanding of that country’s problems, and said that relations between Israel and the Vatican had improved.

A report presented today by the WJ Congress’ executive director, Will Maslow, on tensions between the Negro and Jewish communities in the United States described black anti-Semitism as the work of a handful of extremists. But it assailed the moderate Negro leadership for failing to repudiate and denounce “even these isolated and sporadic utterances” and acts of anti-Semitism. The Maslow report reaffirmed the need for Jews to work for the elimination of discrimination against Negroes in jobs, education and housing.


The governing council devoted most of today’s session to international problems directly affecting the welfare of Jews and Israel. Among these were the situation of Jews in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and the Soviet Union, and the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation of

Armand Kaplan, director of the WJ Congress’ international affairs department, contrasted the harassment of Polish Jews by the Warsaw regime with the friendly attitude adopted by Czech authorities despite the continuing crisis in Czechoslovakia. He said that Jewish community leaders had been encouraged by Czech President Ludvik Svoboda to go ahead with preparations for the celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of the Czech-Jewish community. He said the Czechoslovakian Government and people have strongly rejected attempts by Poland and East Germany to export their anti-Semitism. Mr. Kaplan said the gravest cause for concern was the position of Soviet Jewry which was fraught with ambiguities because of the Soviet Government’s foreign and domestic policies. He said that Russian Jews were bound to be adversely affected by Moscow’s pro-Arab policy. At the same time, domestic policies made it impossible for Jews to develop a free cultural and religious life, he said.

The council adopted a resolution that expressed “mounting anxiety” over the “indefensible policy” of the Polish Government, which it said was directed against “the defenseless remnants” of Polish Jewry. It called on the Warsaw regime to reverse its policies which are “an affront to the Jewish people as a whole and a great disservice to the cause of human rights.” On the statute of limitations, the consensus was that the Government and Parliament of West Germany should feel duty-bound to prevent a situation from arising in which known Nazi war criminals would go free.

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